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Castles and folk

The chirpy soft west coast welcome extended to us by numerous folk this week has been outstanding. The weather has been varied, causing a few wee side excursions, which have opened up even more to love about Scotland.

After an hour of beating down the Sound of Mull with a 30 knot headwind, I remembered Loch Aline and without hesitation we took a side tour – a real treat. Fifteen years on from my first visit they now have a lovely pontoon, which was a great platform on which to get out our bikes.

Out they came a beautiful ride up the loch to Ardtorish Gardens was the afternoon excursion.

Not only did we see the lovely gardens but we had the the great pleasure of speaking to

Richard who had spent the last three years renovating the walled gardens and let us just choose what veggie we would like. The next few days we devoured fresh strawberries, lettuce, spinach, shallots & beans – so good fresh from the ground. On top of a great days bike ride we found "The Whitehouse"restaurant within walking distance - Ian and Megan served us a very unexpected beautiful tasting menu.

The next highlight of the week has to be Eilen Donnan Castle. Leaving our yacht anchored across the river, we set forth with our 3.3 hp dinghy across the current to visit the beautiful castle – the setting for many a film. That night as the Scottish mist started to settle, we switched the heater on and watched Highlander. We were now breathing in the history.

Having worked out that our mast top was a maximum about 25m, and the tide was at least a couple of meters and the Skye bridge publishes its height as 30 m – we were very relieved that the Hallberg Rassy manual was correct as it looked like six inches from the deck!

We had a lovely greeting in Loch Ewe, by Angus McCleod – a local we had met in Port Ellen who told us to give him a all when we arrived in the north. After a night at anchor just off the Isle of Ewe – where we dragged in weed for the the first time, he picked us up near Poolewe and took us for a local tour, introduced us to the local harbourmaster at Gairloch and gave us the low down on anchorages in the area then took us home for a lovely cup of tea – thank you Mrs McCleod. They live in a lovely cottage overlooking the Small isles and Loch broom with their yacht anchored in sight.

After a visit to the fabulous Inverewe Gardens, being able to keep an eye on our yacht and viewing a once in eleven year flowing plant (Puya Alpestris), we headed to anchor in the Summer Isles, before an early morning visit to Ullapool. I had heard all kinds of things about Ullapool, being a hard core fishing village – what we experienced was the nicest of people who made us soooo welcome. Thank you to the Harbourmaster for letting us come along side the short pontoon, and to Alice for looking after our amazon delivery - an updated version of The Scottish islands by Hamish Haswell- Smith. A fantastic guide to the history and geology of the Islands which has made our visit to so many anchorages a real treat. The version I had was published in 1991, Alice helped us get hold of the updated version and it has been great to read the updates. Now we head west to the Outer Hebrides - new territory for us both.